Melbourne: In a dream farewell, Michael Clarke today retired from ODIs after leading Australia to their fifth cricket World Cup title, scoring a match-winning 74 in his swansong appearance to get a standing ovation from a 93,000-strong crowd at the MCG here. Australia outplayed New Zealand by 7 wickets as Clarke became the fourth Australian captain after Allan Border (1987), Steve Waugh (1999) and Ricky Ponting (2003, 2007) to win the coveted 50-over prize in world cricket.
Clarke, who is just three days short of his 34th birthday, goes out after playing 245 ODIs scoring 7981 runs with eight hundreds and 58 half-centuries. He will, however, continue to play for Australia in Test format. The stylish right-hander, who has been under immense pressure to hold his place in the ODI side, announced his retirement after the semi-final win against India in Sydney. ‘Pup’, as he is fondly called, said the time was just right to bid adieu to ODIs.
“Time is right to walk away from one-day cricket, I’ll still be playing Test cricket and I am over the moon,” Clarke said at the presentation. Talking about his number 23 jersey that was presented to him by spin legend Shane Warne, Clarke said, “(I) might give it back to Warney… Haven’t given it much thought”.
It has been a quite a summer for the Australians after young batsman Phillip Hughes lost his life in November last year. Clarke, who considered Hughes as his younger brother, has since worn a black armband and dedicated the World Cup win to the Macksville-born player. “It’s (arm band) got PH on it, I’ll wear it every time I play for Australia. (It’s) Been a really tough few months and everyone would say we played this World Cup with 16 players. Tonight is dedicated to our little brother.
“Hughesy used to party as well as any of them. We’re really proud, it’s a wonderful achievement, to win in our own backyard in front of family and friends,” said an emotional Clarke. Clarke led his country in 74 ODIs, of which Australia won 50. In 108 Tests he played so far, Clarke has scored 8432 runs at an average of 50.79 with 28 hundreds and 27 half centuries.
Clarke has been ravaged by injuries in recent months and he underwent surgery after playing in the first Test of the four-match series against India in Adelaide in December last. Even his participation in the World Cup was in doubt but the selectors gave him time to be fit by the second group match against Bangladesh. Eventually, he regained full fitness and led the side admirably well though he was not in the best of form with the bat.